So, that was a pretty terrible Super Bowl, huh? Unless you’re a Broncos fan, or were pulling for Peyton to win, I guess.

Fortunately I really only saw about half of the game. We went to a party and I spent most of the first half socializing. By the time we made it home and got the girls to bed, I was able to see the Panthers doink their field goal attempt early in the third quarter. I probably should have just gone to bed rather than continue to watch that disaster of a game.

That’s not entirely fair, I admit. Denver’s defense was sublime. Based on the postgame comments from the Broncos defenders, it sounds like Carolina did nothing they were not totally prepared for. But, still, you have to execute. And the Broncos D did exactly that in one of the best Super Bowl performances in recent memory. Carolina’s defense was pretty good, too. They just couldn’t force turnovers inside the Broncos’ 10 yard line like Denver did to Cam Newton.

Newton was terrible. He performed exactly as I thought he might in a worst case scenario for the Panthers: he was spooked by the speed and ferocity of the Denver D and fell back on his athletic ability to win the game. Only Denver was just as athletic as he was and were able to easily contain him. He looked like a pretty limited quarterback in the parts of the game I saw.

As for his failure to fall on his fourth quarter fumble, I took that more as a sign of a guy who had been totally frustrated and taken out of his game than some larger measure of his heart or “want to.” He had a terrible day, capped by an awful moment. And because he’s Cam Newton, that moment is going to be taken as a sign that all the criticism of him is valid, that he’s a pretender to the throne of Next Great NFL QB, etc. Anyone who has watched him throw his body around all this season should know he’s not a coward, weak, or lacks heart. He was just thoroughly defeated in that moment and made a huge mistake.

As for the other QB, Peyton was once again bad in a Super Bowl. Yet he’s now 2–2. As fans of baseball like to say, flags fly forever. It doesn’t matter that both of his Super Bowl wins came in games where he didn’t do much to determine the final result and which were, broadly, ugly games to watch. Two rings is all that matters.

If you read back through the archives of this site, you’ll see I’ve never been the biggest Peyton fan. His robotic nature and inability to adjust when things got chaotic always bothered me. Off the field, his Eddie Haskell-ness bugged me as well. But, until two years ago when he began to decline, I always thought he was the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history.

What does this title do for his legacy? Well, it confirms he’s one of the three or four best in NFL history. Because Tom Brady has more rings, and always did so with less offensive talent around him than Peyton had, and has continued to play at a high level where Peyton has faded, I think he’ll always be just ahead of Peyton. And if I want to win a Super Bowl, I’m taking Joe Montana. I would say Montana and Brady are 1A and 1B, with Peyton just behind them.[1] And while the Colts and Broncos playoff failures weren’t always his fault, Peyton’s poor play has always been a big part of those losses. Throw in four mediocre, at best, Super Bowl performances, and there’s no argument that he is better than Brady or Montana.

But no one else can say they were better. Not Favre, not Marino, not Aikman, not Young. Aaron Rogers may have something to say about that before he’s done, but he’s going to need a strong finish to his career to bridge what is a fairly large gap between wherever he ranks today and where Peyton is. There’s no shame in that for Peyton.

  1. If Brady wins another Super Bowl or two, or continues to be awesome for another 4–5 years, I think he can break that tie.  ↩